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Robert Lamoureux: El Nino is coming, El Nino is coming

Your Home Improvements

Posted: August 7, 2009 9:38 p.m.
Updated: August 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hi Robert,
I was watching the Weather Channel and they were talking about El Nino. Is this a big deal? Is there anything we could do to prepare our homes? Thank you,
Julianne R.

Hi Julianne,
El Nino is a huge deal. It means rain and lots of it. It could easily dump two to three times the amount of normal rainfall we have in California.
You can prepare your home or property by making sure all of the gutters, downspouts and control boxes are clean and clear. If you have sections of bad or no gutters, get them installed or repaired.
The reason why would be to keep the rain from hitting the large surface area of your roof and then sheeting down the sides of your home.
After 60 minutes of sheeting, the felt under your stucco, the waterproofing agent, goes into mush mode and now you've got problems. Once you get water intrusion, you have to remove the wet insulation and wet drywall, set up dryers and dehumidifiers and try to prevent against mold growth.
After it's dried out, you start the process of drywall repair, texture, prime and paint. It's expensive and time consuming.
You'll want to clean out the valley flashing on your roofs. Once these are blocked, water dams, backs up and goes over the metal flashing and then inside your home.
Roof cleaning is something you should do once a year. Go up on the roof, or hire some workers, to hose everything down and clean everything out - especially in high foliage areas. Be sure to blow out any leaves or debris that may be in the downspouts. If they are not draining, those downspouts get very heavy from water. I've seen them rip off of the sides of buildings from this weight.
After all of the gutters and downspouts are clean, make sure your property is graded away from the building so you don't have water pooling next to your home.
In condominium communities, make sure the sump pumps are fully functional. Inspect that the metal check valve is free.
If it rusts shut, the pump will kick on but the valve will air lock. If you have any concerns, pull it out and have it repaired or replaced. You do not want your pumps to fail. If you do replace, I would recommend you go to a PVC check valve to avoid the possibility of rusting.

Hi Robert,
I've got a question about my swimming pool. There is a rubber strip that goes all the way around the pool deck, next to the tiles that I pulled up because it was cracked. There are some very deep holes under where this old sealant used to be that I don't want to fill because it would cost a fortune. Should I first fill those holes with something? What do you think? Thank you,
Steven B.

Hi Steven,
The best thing would be to stuff some backer rod down in there. This is a Styrofoam round rod that you can push down between the coping and the deck to where it is about a 1/2 inch below the surface of the coping. Then run your Deck-O-Seal on top of that. You can fill it up with sand, but it's so much cheaper and easier to use the backer rod.
This is a common problem, by the way. Many times, this is all dirt or sand packed and when you remove the Deck-O-Seal, the dirt underneath has shifted and settled. This can give you a cavity up to about one foot deep in some places, and there is no need to apply that much Deck-O-Seal.
The Deck-O-Seal is a two-stage epoxy. Add them together and mix it up real well. Some people like to use a squirt-type ketchup bottle for the application. You pour it in with a funnel and go around the deck. Or, most pool supply houses sell an applicator that is very similar.
It is imperative you follow the manufacturer's recommendations on the mix because it is a two-stage epoxy, a catalyst, and you want to make sure it is mixed properly. Fill up the gap until it's flush with the coping. I would recommend broadcasting some sand on top of the Deck-O-Seal while it is still wet. This will provide traction and aesthetically it looks nicer. After that, stay out of the pool for eight hours and let it set up properly.

Hi Robert,
I am on the Board of Directors of an HOA community. One building has 12 units and there are 45-degree angle cracks from the top corners of almost every window and door. Some of those units also have cracks in the inside drywall. So, there are some major problems going on here but we are not sure what. How do we repair the cracks? Would you like to give us a bid for the repairs? Thank you,
Stan S.

Hi Stan,
Thank you but I won't be submitting a bid for the repair. We would see that as a conflict of interest, but I can offer a strong recommendation to get you on the right track.
The first thing you need to do is hire a structural engineer. It could be the ground was not compacted properly before construction began which is causing the building to sink. Or, it could be that your slab is flexing. These problems could be caused by any number of things and it's all guesswork until a qualified engineer goes out for an inspection. From what you're describing, I would have hired him yesterday.
In my opinion, I would not be thinking how to repair the cracks until you address the cause of the problem. What's causing these damages and is the building structurally safe? Finding the answers to these questions should be your only priority.
Since you asked though, some HOA communities will go in and fill stucco cracks with caulk. This "repair" actually looks worse than the cracks. The paper or felt behind some of the cracks is a little forgiving but it will tear from the stresses that cracked the stucco. Injecting urethane into the cracks might seal the paper enough to prevent a wind driven rain from intrusion, but it will still leak if water comes in from the top and sheets down. Stucco is porous - it's the paper that waterproofs your home.
The right way to repair stucco cracks is not to caulk, but to chip out and remove the surrounding stucco to the damaged area, replace the felt underneath from stud to stud as needed, then re-lath and stucco and match the texture to the existing.
Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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